News of the Weird

Mar. 11, 2010
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Blessed Violence

Pastor John Renken's Xtreme Ministries, located in Clarksville, Tenn., is one of a reportedly growing number of churches that use "mixed martial arts" to recruit wayward young men to the Christian gospel. Typically, after leading his flock in solemn prayer to a loving god, Pastor Renken adjourns the session to the backroom for fights. In February, a reporter for TheNew York Times found Renken shouting encouragement for violence at a fight event in Memphis. "Hard punches!" Renken yelled. "Finish the fight! To the head! To the head!" One participant told the Times that fight nights bring a greater masculinity to religion, which he said had gone soft in recent years.

Government in Action!

  • Michael Hicks, age 8, frequently travels on airplanes with his mother. While the mother is seldom noticed by airport screeners, "Mikey" almost always receives extra attention because he shares a name with someone on the enhanced-security list, which is one level below "no fly" (Mikey is one of at least 1,600 people named Michael Hicks in the United States). Mikey’s mom told The New York Times in January that Mikey has been patted down by security since he was 2 years old.
  • Better Late Than Never? Eight days after the Christmas Eve demolition of Minneapolis’ historic Fjelde House (because it had been deemed unsafe following a fire last September), the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission awarded the site "interim protection" for its historic value.
  • In February, aspirants for taxicab licenses in Portsmouth, England, were officially informed by the City Council that application forms are available in "audio," "large print" or "Braille."

Political Finger-Pointing

  • In February, legislator Abel LeBlanc was suspended from Canada's New Brunswick Assembly for three days after giving middle-finger salutes to two colleagues, calling one a "punk" and declaring himself ready to "walk outside with any one of yas here. Don't ever laugh at me," he continued. "Yes, I gave you that [the middle finger]. And I'll give you that again. And [to another colleague] I'll give you this [the finger] if you want to go outside."

Great Art!

Just after Christmas, the Anglican Church of St. Peter in Great Limber, England, unveiled artist Adam Sheldon's 6-foot-high representation of the crucifixion consisting of 153 pieces of toast. Sheldon browned the bread himself, then painstakingly either scraped (to lighten) or torched (to darken) each piece to fashion the tableau.

Names in the News

Arrested in January in Memphis, Tenn., and charged with having carnal knowledge of an underage girl: Mr. Knowledge Clark, 29. Arrested in January in Hellertown, Pa., and charged with cashing a stolen check: Richard Fluck, 47, and Bryan Flok, 47. Arrested in Denver in February and charged with using another person's driver's license as identification: Mr. Robin J. Hood, 34. Arrested in Kingston, Pa., in January and charged with cocaine trafficking: Carlos Laurel, 31, and Andre Hardy, 39. Arrested in February in DeFuniak Springs, Fla., and charged with possession of crystal meth: Crystal Beth Williams, 21.

Pervo-American Community

At the 2008 Preble County (Ohio) Fair, following complaints about a peeping Tom, police spotted Coty Heltsley, 20, "looking around, acting nervous" near a row of portable toilets. Over the course of a few hours, Heltsley reportedly moved empty toilets closer together and frequently went in and out of one of the stalls. He was eventually convicted of voyeurism for peeping at a female using the facility. In December 2009, a state appeals court rejected Heltsley's defense that police had violated his right to privacy with their surveillance.

Now, Which One Is the Brake?

Elderly drivers continue to have lapses of concentration, accidentally confusing the gas pedal for the brake pedal: An 89-year-old man crashed through the front of Sussex Eyecare opticians in Seaford, England (June). A driver "in her late 80s" crashed into the Buttonwood Bakery in Hanover Township, Pa. (September). An 86-year-old man crashed into the Country Boy Family Restaurant in Dunedin, Fla. (October). An 82-year-old man crashed into the Egypt Star Bakery in Whitehall Township, Pa. (November). A 78-year-old woman drove off of a 30-foot cliff (but the car's plunge was halted when it lodged against a tree) near Hannibal, Mo. (August). A 92-year-old man crashed into the Biscuits 'N' Gravy & More restaurant in Port Orange, Fla. (January), but was not deterred amid the rubble he created, as he calmly went inside, sat down and ordered breakfast.

A News of the Weird Classic

In August 1994, Sanford, Fla., Judge Newman Brock picked up hair clippers and went to the local Seminole County Jail for his biweekly haircut from his longtime hairstylist, Rick Thrower, who was serving 45 days for DUI violations. Said Thrower, "(The judge is) a very loyal customer."

2010 Chuck Shepherd


Would white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan pose the same threat they do now if a mainstream Republican were president instead of Donald Trump?

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